When is it okay to call yourself a writer?

You hear authors say “I’ve been writing all my life” or “I’ve been writing since I was a little kid.” But for many of us I think the moment we actually label ourselves a “writer” can represent a significant step in this journey we’re on. This was true for me. In one of my early journals I wrote the following –

IMG_0152I couldn’t spell (thank the gods for spell check), but I obviously knew I wanted to write. I wrote all through high school, won a statewide poetry award, but then life got in the way. I wasn’t confident that I could make a living writing. I got interested in environmental issues and went a more scientific path. Even so the sneaky writing muse was watching out for me. I didn’t end up in a lab, I became a planner and project manager with significant responsibilities in, you guessed it, technical writing. But the writing I do for work is as far from creative writing as you can get while still using words.

For years I thought I couldn’t write creatively and do the technical work I was making my living at – then after a while (and I mean a decade or two) my thinking shifted. I give huge credit to my parents, they always remembered I was a writer when I forgot, and this helped me admit that since there were always four or five stories gamboling about in my head, I might as well write them down.

For a while it was my little secret. I didn’t tell family or friends. Then over time when people asked “what’s new” I would shyly admit that I was doing some writing on the side. It was well into my second full manuscript, that I realized two fundamental truths. First – if I called myself a writer, not only would others take me more seriously, but I would feel more grounded in the responsibility of putting butt in chair and getting the work done. Second, I’d been hesitant to call myself a writer because I didn’t have an agent and I wasn’t published, but in fact I was a writer. I was putting the words down, reading, honing my craft skills, and becoming active in this amazing world of other writers doing the same thing. So, if you are in that place between “doing some writing” and “being a writer” I urge you to take that leap. Honor your skills and the hard work you’re doing by calling yourself what you are. Print up business cards. Put it on your Face Book page. Then enjoy the journey.

P.S. if you want more in this vein, run don’t walk to pick up Elizabeth Gilbert’s book BIG MAGIC. Empowering – I promise.

DarceyHighResDarcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel will be published by Henry Holt/MacMillan in spring of 2017. KEY TO HEAVEN, an historic fiction, tells the story of a 12-year old Iranian boy sent to fight in the Iran Iraq war in 1982. With her critique group she runs the Better Books Workshop – an annual small deep craft conference held in Northern California. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her fabulous husband and perfect daughter, some fish, and the best dog in the world. By day she is an environmental planner and when time permits she paints and costumes for a 5-8 year old theater.

Find her on Facebook or Twitter @Darcey_r

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22 Comments

Filed under craft~writing, Creativity, Discipline, Dreams Come True, Happiness, rejection and success, Thankfulness, Writing, Writing and Life

22 responses to “When is it okay to call yourself a writer?

  1. Do you write? Then you’re a writer. Right?

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  2. Darcey, Congratulations on KEY TO HEAVEN! I look forward to reading it.

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  3. I agree. Saying you’re a writer is a form of accountability.

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  4. Hooray for you (with nudging from your parents) for finally taking the writerly path!

    I’m not afraid to call myself a writer, but I am afraid to call myself an “author” because I’m only published in magazines and don’t have a book. I find it interesting that I see sites of writers who don’t have any publishing credits yet who label themselves as authors. Dream big and it will come, I suppose?

    I can’t wait for your book to come out!

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  5. “Honor your skills and the hard work that you’re doing by calling yourself what you are.” I LOVE that, Darcey.

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  6. Janet Fox

    I especially love that little excerpt from your journal – so sweet of you to share! Many warm congrats, Darcey – you’re not only a writer, you’re a soon to be published author!! 🙂

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  7. mariagianferrari

    Congrats, Darcey! I keep hearing about Big Magic so I’m moving it up on the to-read list–thank you!

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  8. In my mind, historical fiction and technical writing take on a huge responsibility to get it right. Never underestimate your writing! Congratulations on your upcoming 2017 publication

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  9. Elly Swartz

    You were and continue to be a writer, a wonderful, creative, talented writer. And, I can’t wait to read your book. Sounds amazing!

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  10. Darcy, I felt the same way. The word “writer” just wouldn’t come out of my mouth…until it finally did. It did make me feel accountable. Can’t wait for your book!

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  11. kevanjatt

    THanks for the reminder to ‘enjoy the journey,’ Darcey!

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